Features

The wizarding world magic we’d like to know more about

From Obscurials to the Sorting Hat to spells for flight – here's a look at the stranger magic that remains a mystery.

There are certain spells in the wizarding world that have become popular and well established – almost like greatest hits. We all know what Expelliarmus means, for example, and we all know what it does; the same can be said for the Levitation Charm (‘Wingardium Leviosa!’) or the dreaded Killing Curse (‘Avada Kedavra!’). But every now and then we get a glimpse of obscure magic; snapshots of stranger spells which are rarely explained in detail, but whose mystery we’d love to unravel. Here are but a few that leap to mind...

Sentient objects

Draco being sorted

Just how much magic goes into making an object think and speak for itself? Consider some of the ancient entities of Hogwarts, such as the Sorting Hat, or the Quill of Acceptance or the Book of Admittance. These conscious items have been at Hogwarts for many years – and are even trusted to make actual decisions on students. But what sort of spell do you cast on an object to make it ‘aware’? If any? Even Arthur Weasley’s flying Ford Anglia seemed to develop a personality not too long after Harry and Ron crashed it into the Whomping Willow, and all Arthur did was tinker with the car to make it fly.

The Marauder’s Map was also able to come to life: it could recognise the likes of Severus Snape and hurl witty insults at him. But how on earth do you train a piece of parchment to track the whereabouts of every living person at Hogwarts, and also be able to ask it to tell amusing quips? Especially seeing as the map was created by four young teenagers... Surely, this sort of thing required very advanced magic?

The answer may lie in how magical portraits are created. Wizards who sit for portraits are encouraged to spend time with their painting so that they can imprint their personalities. Perhaps just a wizard’s presence is all it takes for things to become more ‘alive’. Or perhaps magic, by its very nature, is a sentient thing in itself – a force of nature with its own will and quirks.

Flying

Snape in his potions class room from the Order of the Pheonix
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Yes, yes. We know most wizards can fly whenever they want, providing they have a broomstick — or in more extreme cases, a Hippogriff. But it’s also possible, in the rarest of cases, that wizards can fly unaided themselves, as first demonstrated by Lord Voldemort in Deathly Hallows, and later Severus Snape.

It’s unknown quite how they managed this, although we do know that certain spells do levitate things, such as the Levitation Charm, or Snape’s self-penned spell, Levicorpus. But it looks like to actually properly fly, unsupported, is a much more powerful type of magic – and possibly Dark. Snape was described as ‘bat-like’ when he was seen flying, with Professor McGonagall observing he must have learnt ‘a few tricks’ from Lord Voldemort, who presumably was so magically gifted that he invented the spell himself.

Whether the secrets of flight died with him, however, no one knows. But we can imagine a fair few wizards would be working hard to learn it themselves.

Obscurials

WB COG Credence and Nagini

In Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (2016) we discovered a magical ‘illness’, of sorts, that could manifest in a very dark way. An Obscurus, essentially, is an intense and awful energy that bursts from a repressed wizard who is trying to hold back their magic. Usually, an Obscurial dies at a young age, as the dark force becomes uncontrollable. As Credence is the only confirmed Obscurial we have met so far, we’re dying to know more about this otherworldly disorder – and how Credence could deal with the ailment for a longer period of time.

Unlike the other entries on this list, however, it’s entirely possible that we’ll actually find the answers we seek about Credence. We just have to be patient...

Horcruxes

The fake Locket Horcrux at the
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

You may think, of course, that we know all about Horcruxes; that, after an entire series of books devoted to their destruction, we’re more than acquainted with the most notoriously Dark magic the wizarding world has to offer.

But that’s not entirely true. For we may know what a Horcrux is – a means of binding a piece of your soul to an object in the pursuit of immortality – but we don’t know the actual magic involved in creating one. Indeed, the process has been deliberately obscured from us by J.K. Rowling, who has only ever revealed that it involves a spell and a ‘series of things you would have to do’ that are ‘too horrible’ to say out loud.

Given that the process of splitting a soul involves murder (the ‘supreme act of evil’, to quote Horace Slughorn) the mind can only boggle at what deviant thing needs to be done to bind that soul to an object. Maybe some things are best left unknown...

Sign up for your Wizarding Passport: the ultimate magical profile